Summary: Each of us has to deal with the question of suffering at one point or another. Today we are starting a new four part survey of the book of Job that will specifically deal with the question of suffering. The messages go together, so, if possible, you shoul
Over the next four weeks, we are going to be doing something a little bit different. Tonight, we’re going to allow Job to show us the Source of Suffering. Next week, we’ll see the Purpose in Suffering. After that, we’ll see how we should respond When Others Suffer around us. And we’ll finish the series by seeing how we should respond when we suffer. Now, this isn’t going to be a verse-by-verse exposition like we’re used to. But we will be in the Text. And the Texts that we look at will be representative of each part of our survey. Tonight, to give us the foundation that we need, we’re going to read a very long passage. I’m going to read from 1:1-2:10, so bear with me.
Now, like I said, this isn’t going to be a technical overview of the book. We did that a couple of years ago on a Wednesday night and we don’t need to do that again. But I do think that we need to have a basic idea of the structure of the book. It can be divided into three main parts—the prologue, the dialogue, and the epilogue. The prologue is in the first two chapters. The epilogue is the last 11 verses of the book. So that tells you that the vast majority of the book is the dialogue. In that dialogue, there are four rounds of speeches between Job and his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. In the last round, Zophar has apparently had enough, because he chooses not to speak. Then after the four rounds, the fourth friend comes into the picture. His name is Elihu and he gives four speeches, one right after the other. Job never responds to him. Then comes the climax of the book. That’s when God finally speaks. Starting in chapter 38, God speaks to Job in two rounds. God speaks a whole lot and Job just says a few words. I wanted to read the prologue tonight, because it sets the stage. We get to see the behind the scenes action that Job never got to see. All that Job saw was that everything in his life was almost immediately turned upside down. I know that everyone of us in here have suffered. None of us have experienced what Job experienced, but that doesn’t make our suffering any less real. By the same token, I may have never experienced what you have, but that doesn’t make your suffering any less real than mine. Suffering—no matter what it is—if you are suffering, it is real. It’s not trivial. It’s not something that we can just say, “That’s no big deal.” We might not understand it. We might not have ever experienced it, but to the one who is suffering, it is real suffering. Each of us either is suffering or have suffered. And I know that each of us in here isn’t finished with suffering. Suffering will hit us sometime in the future. Probably in the way we least expect it. And when we either see or experience suffering, we always ask questions. I want you to know that throughout this book, Job asked questions. And do you know what? God never admonished him for those questions. It was only when Job accused God of being unjust and began to demand that He justify Himself, that God admonished Job. Job asked God questions. Abraham asked God questions. Moses asked God questions. David asked God questions. The Psalms are full of questions. God the Son even asked God the Father questions. God is not afraid of your questions. Your questions will not anger Him. So when we either see or experience suffering, it’s okay to ask questions. We’re going to ask one of those questions tonight. And it is a difficult question. The question is, Where does suffering come from? In other words, What is the source of suffering? When we ask that question, we can come up with three answers. The first answer is that the source of suffering is our own sin.
In a lot of cases, that bears with the testimony of what we see, doesn’t it? If somebody smokes three packs of cigarettes a day for 40 years and gets lung cancer… they have been the cause of their suffering. If somebody drinks a 12-pack of beer every day and gets cirrhosis of the liver… they have been the cause of their suffering. If someone eats all the wrong foods and never exercises and ends up with heart disease and a stroke… they have been the cause of their suffering. Or what about this? If a person spends their whole life being a jerk to everybody they meet… they have been the cause of their suffering when they die a lonely old person. That only makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, the Bible even seems to say that, doesn’t it? What does Galatians 6:7-8 say? “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” That was the argument that Job’s friends gave. In Job 4:8, Eliphaz argued, “Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” Bildad blamed the sinfulness on Job’s kids. In 8:3-4 he said, “Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice? If thy children have sinned against him, and [then] he have cast them away for their transgression.” Job, God killed your kids because they sinned. Zophar followed right along, except he said that Job’s sin was hidden. It was secret sin that nobody knew about. But God knew that he was wicked and was going to pay him back for it. In 20:27-29 he said, “The heaven shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth shall rise up against him. The increase of his house shall depart, and his goods shall flow away in the day of his wrath. This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God.” But is that the answer to the question of suffering? It’s obvious that sometimes it is. But when a lady is raped, is her suffering because of her sin? When a child is beaten to death by his daddy, is it somehow because of that child’s sin? When a mother is cursed and abused by her wayward child, is it because of her sin? When a wife suffers in silent shame as her husband spends his time fantasizing over pornography, is it somehow her fault? Of course not. Jesus told his disciples as much in John 9. One time they passed by a man who had been blind from birth. I think that we would all consider that to be suffering. The disciples certainly did. And they wanted to know what he was getting paid back for. They asked Jesus, “Whose sin caused this man to suffer this way?” “Was it because of his own sin, or did his parents’ sin do this to him?” Do you remember what Jesus said? John 9:3 says, “Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” So, let’s boil this down. Sin always brings suffering—make no mistake about it. But not all suffering is cause by sin. So, when Job’s friends said that he was suffering because of sin (either his sin or his children’s sin)… when they said that, they were wrong. They were wrong, because even though sin causes suffering, their answer was insufficient. It was incomplete. So if that answer is insufficient and incomplete, what’s another answer? The second answer is that the source of suffering is Satan.